Demand for Union Recognition at Zane’s Cycles

(edited from press release – ed.)

On May 21 workers and community members gathered at Zane’s Cycles (330 East Main St., Branford) to protest what they claim to be owner Chris Zane’s exploitative practices.

zanes-storeIn September 2015, workers at Zane’s Cycles facility voted overwhelmingly under federal labor law to bargain collectively for a workplace contract. The workers elected UFCW Local 919 to represent them in contract negotiations. Since then, Chris Zane has agreed to meet eight times to negotiate a contract with the workers. That’s eight negotiating sessions in 8 months.

Among the issues workers want to address, which Zane has refused to reasonably discuss, are:

  • Having a clean, sanitary break room (currently workers eat their lunch in the dirty, greasy work area where they assemble thousands of bikes for Zane)
  • Adequately heated and cooled working area (workers tell us it is often too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer… many have to wear coats while they work in the winter)
  • Paid sick days (workers lose money when they or a family member is sick)
  • Paid vacation days (after building thousands of bikes for Zane, workers can’t even count on a paid vacation after so much hard work)
  • Paid time off to mourn the death of a family member (Zane won’t even agree to pay a worker who has to go to a funeral for a family member!!)

Workers say they feel exploited. Because of the owner’s behavior, Zane’s Cycles has been charged with violating federal labor law. The charges are currently before the National Labor Relations Board. Workers and community members gathered to protest Chris Zane’s bad faith bargaining and his unfair labor practices.

zane-protester

Press Contact: Jorge Cabrera (203) 499-8694.

Labor History: Looking Back, Moving Forward – Annual Conference June 5

by Joan Cavanagh, GNHLHA director/archivist

Members and friends of the Greater New Haven Labor History Association are invited to its annual conference and meeting on Sunday, June 5, from 1:30-4:30 p.m. at 267 Chapel St., New Haven. The conference, “Labor History: Looking Back, Moving Forward,” will honor the organization’s late President, Nicholas Aiello, showcase its 28-year history and discuss plans for the future.

Author Anthony Riccio, who interviewed Nick for his books, The Italian American Experience in New Haven and Farms, Factories and Families will present “Sisters and Sweatshops: The Life of Nick Aiello,” and will give this year’s Augusta Lewis Troup Award to Louise Fortin, Nick’s sister and a retired garment worker.

Frank Annunziato, outgoing Executive Director of the American Association of University Professors, University of Rhode Island Chapter, who co-founded LHA with Aiello in 1988, will discuss the organization’s mission and its early years, inviting contributions from others who were among its first members. The Director, Joan Cavanagh, and current Executive Board members, including Bill Berndtson, President, and Steve Kass, Vice President, will talk about LHA’s accomplishments during the first 16 years of the 21st century, including its work to produce a labor history curriculum for Connecticut’s public schools.

As always, there will be time for refreshments and socializing. The organization’s troubadour, noted musician Frank Panzarella, will provide labor songs.

If you want to learn more about LHA’s history, have ideas about how to move forward in the 21st century, and/or simply want to learn more about LHA, please join us on June 5th to look back at what has been accomplished and to imagine and plan the future. For more information, please call (203) 668-9082 or contact joan@labor.history.org.

International Workers’ Day: Fighting for Our Future, May 1

by Joelle Fishman, CT People’s World

The People’s World in Connecticut is hosting its annual celebration of International Workers’ Day on Sunday, May 1 at 4 p.m. at the King-Davis Labor Center, 77 Huyshope Ave., Hartford. The lives of workers and the 99% are on the line here and around the world and people are in motion. On May Day 2016 we are “Fighting for Our Future.”

We are honored to welcome keynote speaker John Wojcik, editor of People’s World and vice president of the International Labor Communications Association who lives in Chicago.

A panel including representatives of state workers and immigrants and those struggling for jobs in Connecticut will highlight key demands of the moment.

The program includes a presentation of May Day Around the World, music and home made buffet. Donation is $5 or what you can afford. A fund appeal for the annual People’s World will be made. For more information, call (203) 624-4254.

Unidad Latina en Acción and Rosa DeLauro Push to Stop Wage Theft

Brothers Axel and Henry Tubac worked for a company installing kitchens. For the first two years they were paid without fail. Then, for six and seven weeks, respectively, their employer stopped paying them.

When they met with U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro at New Haven Legal Assistance headquarters Tuesday afternoon, the brothers still hadn’t been paid.  They have filed suit against their former employer for wage theft.

“It was just a nightmare what happened to me,” Axel Tubac recalled. “I did not have food. I talked to my boss many, many times. He just seemed like he don’t care. He owes me about $4,000; $500 in overtime that he did not pay.”

….

Lugo was arrested on Nov. 22 for disturbing the peace during a protest outside of Goodfellas. He argued that the police are more interested in harassing him for protesting rather than going after restaurant owners that are allegedly committing the far more serious crime of stealing from their employees and thumbing their noses at the law.

To read the entire article with all the photos, visit: DeLauro Targets Wage Theft | New Haven Independent

 

Labor History Association Annual Conference and Meeting, June 5: Looking Back, Going Forward

by Joan Cavanagh, GNHLHA Archivist/ Director

This year’s annual conference and meeting of the Greater New Haven Labor History Association will honor the organization’s late President, Nicholas Aiello, showcase its 28 year history and give our members and friends an opportunity to brainstorm about the future.

Frank Annunziato, who co-founded LHA with Nick in 1988, will give a presentation about the organization’s mission and its early years, inviting contributions from others who were among its first members. The Director and current Executive Board members, including Bill Berndtson, President, and Steve Kass, Vice President, will talk about LHA’s work during the first 16 years of the 21st century.

Author Anthony Riccio, who interviewed Nick for his books, The Italian American Experience in New Haven and  Farms, Factories and Families will present “Sisters and Sweatshops: The Life of Nick Aiello” and will give this year’s Augusta Lewis Troup Award to Louise Fortin, Nick’s sister and a retired garment worker.

As always, there will be time for refreshments and socializing and our troubadour, Frank Panzarella, will serenade us with labor songs.

If you have memories to share about Nick or the organization’s history, ideas about how we should move forward in this new century, and/or simply want to learn more about LHA, please join us on June 5th to look back at what has been accomplished and to imagine and plan the future of our mission to document and celebrate working class history.

2016 Annual Conference and Meeting: Labor History: Looking Back, Going Forward

Joan Cavenaugh, Archivist/Director, GNH Labor History Association

The theme of this year’s annual conference and meeting on Sunday, June 5, from 1:30 to 4:40 p.m., has a special poignancy given the death of our co-founder and President Emeritus, Nicholas Aiello, last November, as well as the passing of so many of our members in recent years. We will be honoring them and looking back at the history of this organization as we also envision our future.

laborAnthony Riccio’s presentation, “Sisters and Sweatshops: The Life of Nick Aiello,” will be a keynote, with discussion to follow. We urge all who have memories of Nick and stories to share to come prepared to do so!

There will also be a presentation about LHA’s 28 year history, followed by a discussion of its future. This is a crucial time not only to look back at what has been accomplished, but to imagine and begin to plan ways to accomplish the organization’s continuing goals in a social climate that is markedly different than it was in 1988. We need all hands on deck for this discussion session!

This year’s Augusta Lewis Troup award will be presented to Louise Fortin, sister of Nicholas Aiello and a retired garment worker.

The conference will conclude with the annual meeting, where members in good standing will vote on the newest by-laws revisions and for the slate of officers for 2016-2018.

If you have memorabilia from Nick’s life or from the 28 years of the Labor History Association’s work, please contact us ASAP. We’re thinking about possible formats to display such things for posterity.
Visit the conference website at http://www.conference.ctcor.org.

Job Openings for Project Labor Organizers

by Cara Jennings, NY Communities for Change

New York Communities for Change is hiring Project Labor Organizers to join the exciting Fight for $15 Campaign.  We are reaching out to activist groups to spread the word about these great jobs. Can you please share the below job postings with your network via e-mail and social media? We offer salaried positions plus benefits — paid work for a good cause. We encourage activists with organizing experience to apply. See the job listing below and apply today!  Please contact Cara Jennings if you have any questions – cararyanjennings@gmail.com.

Position: “Fight for 15” Project Labor Organizer with New York Communities for Change Location: New York City. Compensation: Competitive salary commensurate with experience, starting at $40,000/year. Individual health care and dental coverage is provided, as well as car allowance and paid time off.

Details: The New York City “Fight for 15” campaign is seeking candidates committed to the fight for economic and social justice and to raising work place standards for thousands of fast food and low wage workers in New York City. This is an exciting opportunity to work for an innovative and ground-breaking campaign that is bringing together fast food and low wage workers to hold corporations and employers accountable, to improve working conditions, and to fight for $15 an hour and a union. Project positions are available immediately. For job qualifications and online application, go to http://SEIU.org. Search for “Labor Organizer, New York City ‘Fight for $15’ campaign” for this position. Other SEIU jobs are also on this website.

The NYCC is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Unidad Latina en Acción Against Wage Theft

Joseph Foran, ULA

On Dec. 2, about 15 members of Unidad Latina en Acción and allies met with Mayor Harp and Police Chief Esserman.  We read to them a letter that documented the many specific cases of Goodfellas Restaurant failing to pay employees minimum wage. A wage theft victim from Thai Taste gave his personal testimony.

Mario Cerame, an attorney on 1st Amendment rights, sent a letter to Mayor Harp outlining the violations that the New Haven Police Department made when stopping a protest outside of Goodfellas on Nov. 20 and arresting John Lugo, charging him with disorderly conduct.

We will be meeting with Mayor Harp’s office to follow up on our policy recommendations. Mayor Harp and Chief Esserman must condemn the actions of the officers who violated our constitutional right to assemble without police intimidation and retaliation. Our members have the right to protest anonymously, and it is illegal and inappropriate to demand identification, especially when NHPD and Goodfellas have threatened to use IDs to create a blacklist. Officers must be educated that a civilian noise complaint alone is not grounds for arrest. We also assert our right to record any interactions our members have with police. Our families shall not be threatened, and officers shall not question our decision to bring children to peaceful protests. New Haven must immediately revoke the outdoor seating license of Goodfellas restaurant. It is unacceptable that our city is facilitating a criminal enterprise at Goodfellas, an enterprise that has been found guilty of wage theft on multiple occasions by multiple government agencies and is currently under investigation for forced labor, wage theft and other threats to the health and safety of New Haven residents. The City of New Haven gave Goodfellas the license, and the City of New Haven is the only entity that can revoke it.

Two members of ULA (Karim Calle and I) agreed to attend meetings of the Community Policing Task Force to address the issues we raised in our letter. We are also collaborating with Board of Alders on wage theft. Meanwhile, public actions against wage theft at Goodfellas, Thai Taste, and other establishments continue.

Amistad Awards Rally Calls for Justice for All

by Joelle Fishman, CT People’s World

From Ariel Johnson’s beautiful rendition of Change is Gonna Come to the closing performance by Ice the Beef Stop the Violence Start the Peace, the 2015 People’s World Amistad Awards inspired young and old alike with its message of unity and struggle.

Themed “Justice for All – In Solidarity with Black and Latino Youth – Stop the Right-wing Attacks,” the event greeted actions by youth to end racism and achieve a future with hope and dignity.

“The 2016 elections are the battleground for every democratic right we’ve ever won,” declared Joelle Fishman in the Call to Action. “We can stop….candidates who want to bring us back 175 years. We will not go back! We must go forward!”

Awardees included Jill Marks, a leader of New Haven Rising and Alder-elect in Ward 28; Ciro Gutierrez, member-leader of SEIU 32 BJ building cleaners union in Hartford, and Cindy Harrity, Communication Workers of America Local 1298 organizer, retired.

Marks said she was moved to become a grassroots leader after knocking on thousands of doors and hearing the problems of ordinary families. She urged those present to join the fight for good jobs and attend a New Haven Rising rally Dec. 12.

Gutierrez, born in Peru, described how he became involved in the social movement during the right-wing coup in his country. When his family came to U.S. after losing their public sector jobs to privatization, he continued his commitment to workers’ rights through his union.

Harrity, unable to project her voice due to illness, prepared comments read by husband John Harrity. Cindy, well known for her successes as a union organizer, urged those present to “be unreasonable” when confronted with exploitation, unfairness or any injustice.

The awards were held on the 96th anniversary of the Communist Party USA. Edie Fishman, who joined the YCL at 14, now in her 80th year in the working-class movement, received flowers from the youth. She recounted experiences which won social security, unemployment compensation, health and safety on the job, and ending Jim Crow racial segregation. “When we stick together and fight together we can win,” she said.

Performances also included Capoeira by Raca em Moviemento Dance Studio and poetry by Gaylord Slaters and Aaron Jafferis.

Labor History Legislation Becomes Law in CT!

by Steve Kass, Vice President, GNH Labor History Association

After a 5-year organizing effort to get labor history taught in the Connecticut public schools, the “labor history bill” was ceremonially signed into law on July 29, 2015, by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. The legislation directs the state department of education to make a curriculum available in “labor history and law, including organized labor, the collective bargaining process, and existing legal protections in the workplace.”

Thus, Connecticut became only the third state in the nation to have a bill that teaches labor history in the public schools.

Senate Majority Leader President Martin Looney spear-headed the effort with strong grassroots support from the AFL-CIO, labor activists, 15 statewide unions, and individual members of the Greater New Haven Labor History Association.

Looney expressed the value of exposing students to labor history. “Without the contribution of organized labor and the sacrifice and courage of union activists, the average worker, even the average non-union worker, would have many fewer rights and benefits in employment,” Looney said. “We owe it to the children of Connecticut to teach them about these extraordinary contributions so that they might have an understanding of this critical component in American history.”

Advocates for this bill recognized a lack of awareness of the role labor played in history in helping to create the middle class. Young people today don’t know that it was through the effort of workers and unions that helped give American society the weekend, minimum wages, health care benefits, social security, Medicare, 40-hour work week and unemployment insurance.

Most people don’t remember or know how important the labor movement was in pushing Depression-era politicians to pass legislation that systematizes the basic features of American work wages earners now take for granted. In 1935, President Roosevelt called the labor legislation “the most far-reaching, far-sighted program for the benefit of workers ever adopted.”

With growing income inequality and a declining union movement, this legislation is needed now more than ever to get the untold story of labor’s contributions included in American history. Follow us at http://laborhistory.com.

Picket at Goodfellas for Wage Theft Leads to Arrest of Protest Leader

by Unidad Latina en Acción

On Nov. 20, 2015, New Haven Police arrested John Lugo, one of the leaders of Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA), during a workers’ rights protest outside Goodfellas Restaurant. “You have no right to be here,” said the police to ULA. (Video at http://www.facebook.com/ULANewHaven/videos)

Stand with us: We will not be silenced. We will not be intimidated.

We have been picketing Goodfellas for 6 months. We have been picketing businesses that steal wages from workers for 10 years, and we will not stop. Arrest the owner of Goodfellas, not the peaceful protesters. Wage theft is a crime. Protesting for our human rights is not a crime. The CT Department of Labor and US DOL have found Gerry Iannaccone, owner of Goodfellas, guilty of stealing from dozens of workers. Yet this crime goes unpunished.

New Haven gets a lot of credit for being a welcoming city for immigrants. Is New Haven a welcoming city when immigrants are criminalized for peaceful protest and wage theft goes unpunished? Unidad Latina en Acción is currently supporting workers in cases of wage theft and discrimination in Goodfellas, Gourmet Heaven, 116 Crown, Thai Taste, Fair Haven Clam & Oyster, El Buen Gusto, La Carreta, among other local businesses.

In a press conference in 2014, Chief Esserman stated that wage theft is a crime under Connecticut law and that the NHPD is willing to act to enforce that law. In spite of those good words, the NHPD is doing the opposite: punishing the victims of wage theft and their advocates. On Nov. 6, 2015, Esserman walked into Goodfellas to eat dinner while ULA was picketing the restaurant, ignoring our attempts to speak with him. On Nov. 20, after the NHPD arrested John Lugo, one of the officers entered the restaurant and came out with a bag of food for the police. NHPD, which side are you on?

This is not the first time that the NHPD has colluded with the owner of Goodfellas to intimidate workers. In 2011, ULA filed an internal affairs complaint against NHPD after a sergeant demanded that protesters show ID at a workers’ rights picket outside Goodfellas, and he threatened that the owner of Goodfellas would use the IDs to create a “blacklist” so that protesters would not be employed by other restaurants. [See: http://www.nhregister.com/general-news/20110122/complaint-filed-against-new-haven-cops-over-goodfellas-protest.]

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